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My favorite Chiat award winning campaign prepared for the backlash

StratFest19 Insights:  A campaign that takes on a social issue and prepares for the backlash

For those interested in advertising strategy, last week was a playground of ideas. At the two-day conference put on by the 4As called StratFest, there were speakers from all different types of companies: media companies, ad agencies, and customer experience researchers, ethnographers and more, all talking about strategy! It was also an opportunity to highlight the Chiat award winning campaigns.  One of my personal highlights from those two days was the Chiat award winning campaign by McCann Dubai for their client Baby Shop.  McCann Dubai convinced Baby Shop, the leading children’s retailer in the Arab world to go beyond the normal price promotion for Mother’s Day and take a risk. While there have been recent advances for women in the Arab world, the word which is used for “parenthood” is a reflection of the patriarchal culture and literally means fatherhood, ignoring the contribution of mothers. For the campaign, they created a new word for parenthood in Arabic, one that included mothers.  Since Baby Shop clientele is mothers, this was appropriate for their target audience. The campaign launched on Mother’s Day 2018.


McCann really did their homework.  To create the word, they engaged with linguistic experts, which paid off in later endorsements by other experts.  Their multifaceted campaign included appearances on talk shows, an online video helping people learn how to pronounce the word, a magazine, efforts in classrooms, and art events.  Baby Shop also created a line of clothing featuring the new word, with the proceeds donated to charity.  The campaign succeeded in getting the word used in Arabic poetry and included in an Arabic dictionary.    

But this was risky for those involved – the Middle East is a patriarchal culture and those involved knew they would get push back.  If they didn’t succeed, the people who worked on it could have lost their right to work in Dubai.   And they did get negative comments.  Right after launch, an analysis showed positive and negative comments at about equal levels.

Not only were Baby Shop and McCann aware of the potential negative consequences of the campaign, they were also prepared.  To deal with these sentiments, they invited over 40 female and male influencers to engage with the negative commenters.  This turned sentiment around.  By week 5, negative comments had dropped to much lower levels.  

What I love about this example is that McCann and Baby Shop took on a cultural, social issue of relevance to their target audience in such a way that worked for everyone.  They didn’t just forge ahead doing what they felt was the “right” thing and then be surprised by a backlash or discount the backlash as unimportant.   They thought about what the consequences could be and prepared a way to deal with them in a constructive, respectful manner. Kudos to them for thinking things through!


Here’s the details about the campaign on the 4As website.  

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Karen Tibbals @KarenTibbals

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